3 Ways My Relationship with My Mother Impacts My Current Relationships, Even After Her Death

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I spent most of my childhood as the daughter of a single mother.

We were two forces to be reckoned with, contained to, usually, less than 1000 square feet of space. When forces like that live in such close proximity, there are bound to be collisions.

And boy, were there.

As a teenager, I felt like my mom was constantly looking for a fight: I didn’t invite my friends over enough. I spent too much time with my grandparents. I didn’t prioritize her; I didn’t care enough about her. I was ashamed of her, ashamed of the life we lived.

Many of those things were, arguably, true. Living with a single mother who preferred the company of alcohol to her daughter, who kicked me out of our home on a monthly basis, and shattered my trust in her did that.

At 24, I can look back on things now and tell myself there wasn’t a thing I could’ve done to change it. Addiction and mental illness took the mom I knew until I was 11 and warped her into someone I grew to fear, even as adult.

I don’t think I’ll ever know all the ways in which our relationship impacted me. But as I think about the people I have relationships with now, I can see ways in which my unhealthy relationship with my mom has manifested within me.

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1. I’m constantly braced for impact.

This is something I’ve known about myself for awhile but it’s a topic of frequent discussion between my boyfriend and me. I’m constantly concerned about saying the wrong thing or showing any negative emotions. This is not a fear of judgement by strangers or random people but rather, the fear that I’ll say or something that someone close to me doesn’t like and, faster than i can blink, they’ll turn on me. Hit me just to watch me fall.

In family’s like my boyfriend’s, fights aren’t panic-inducing; they don’t trigger fight or flight. The same is not true for me. There was no such thing as a disagreement or an argument between me and my mother. Everything was a knock down, drag out. Her ultimate KO was kicking me out of whatever apartment we happened to be living in that month.

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2. I’m jealous of relationships my friends have with their families.

This jealousy is nothing new to me, I’ve harbored it since I was a child. But as an adult, watching the way my friends and their parents talk with and about each other, breeds a specific, empty kind of jealousy. It’s not angry or mean-spirited, instead, it’s more like curiosity and recognizing what feels like the unknowability of that kind of love. One that I will likely never experience, and even if I do, I may constantly wonder if it’s the real thing.

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3. I anticipate being left behind.

Whether they ignore me or physically leave, I’ve come to expect people to leave. Fortunately, this is the one I have to confront the least.

The people and relationships I have now are the best ones I’ve ever had. It took me over 20 years to find these people and I’m as sure of them as I could ever possibly be. But that doesn’t mean I don’t occasionally get that little voice in the back of my mind, the one that shows up unwelcome at my worst moments, tempting me to believe in the end.


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